OLYMPIA — State and federal fish and wildlife officers are working to trap two coyotes threatening people in Seattle’s Discovery Park and the nearby Magnolia neighborhood.
A wildlife-control agent with the U. S. Department of Agriculture, working under a contract with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and in cooperation with the Seattle Police Department, set two live traps for the animals yesterday.
If the animals are trapped they will be euthanized, Hebner said. Coyotes that have lost their fear of humans cannot be relocated, because they are likely to return to populated areas and continue to act aggressively toward people, Hebner said.
The decision to trap and remove the animals was made after several residents and park visitors reported the two coyotes stalking them and refusing to back away despite their efforts to frighten them off.
“Public safety is — and must be — our first priority,” said Capt. Bill Hebner, who heads the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) enforcement program for the northern Puget Sound region.
Coyote sightings have been documented for over two months in and near the park, but recently the coyotes’ behavior became increasingly aggressive. One local man reported being cornered against a fence by one of the coyotes. In another recent incident, a woman reported opening her front door with her dog at her side and encountering one of the coyotes, which lunged at her and her pet. She had to fend off the animal with an umbrella. Another man and woman walking their dog, reported one of the coyotes followed them and attempted to snatch their pet from their arms.
“Many neighborhoods have urban coyotes, and a number of people have lost pets to coyotes, but what makes this situation different is that these coyotes have lost their natural fear of humans and are dangerously approaching people,” Hebner said.
Over the last few weeks, the Seattle Police Department and Seattle Animal Control received numerous reports about the two aggressive coyotes, said Hebner.
“We have been monitoring the situation and it was clear that the coyotes have become bolder and bolder,” he said. “This is likely a result of the animals being fed by people.”
Although coyote sightings and attacks on pets and other small animals occur periodically throughout the state, attacks on humans are extremely rare. Only two such attacks have been documented in Washington — in 2006 a coyote bit two young children in Bellevue. That animal was later euthanized by a WDFW enforcement officer.
Normally, coyotes avoid people but they may become habituated to humans — and increasingly aggressive — if they are fed or find food near human residences.
In most cases, problem encounters with coyotes can be avoided by removing food sources, and keeping small pets and young children under close supervision. More information on living with coyotes can be found on the WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/living/coyotes.htm.